Did you know the month of August was Africanis month?
The Africanis is part of Africa’s unique heritage and biodiversity, and deserves recognition and protection.
The Africanis is an extremely intelligent, loyal and healthy breed and become very attached to their owners. They can be territorial and are very watchful and protective of their loved ones, but are also affectionate and playful. They are easy to train as they strive to please their owners. The Africanis requires very little grooming and is a low-maintenance dog, making them the ideal pet. There is no question about it – the Africanis breed is a special one. Yet they are often abandoned, homeless or rescued from townships or rural areas. There are so many Africanis dogs currently at our Kloof and highway SPCA looking for homes. Please don’t overlook this incredible breed when you are looking to adopt.
What makes the Africanis unique is that the dog is a mainly a result of natural, not human, selection. Unlike Western dog breeds, whose bodies have been artificially shaped by the arbitrary and sometimes cruel standards of the Kennel Clubs, Africanis dogs are healthy and valued only for their usefulness and loyalty.
The Africanis is descended from dogs pictured in ancient cave art and on Egyptian murals. The earliest remains of the domesticated dog in Africa was found in the Nile delta and dated to 4,700 BC. Today, Africanis dogs are found all over Southern Africa. The earliest record of a domestic dog in South Africa is dated 570 AD, on the farm Diamant in the Ellisras district, near the Botswana border. At the same time, domestic dogs lived south-west of Francistown, Botswana.
By 650 AD the dog is found in the lower Tugela valley, and by 800 AD in a Khoisan settlement at Cape St Francis.
The beauty of this dog is embodied in the simplicity and functionality of its build. The Africanis is a medium sized dog, of slender build and well-muscled. It is agile and supple, moves in a very natural and easy manner, and can run at great speed. The dog is found in a wide range of colours, with or without markings. A ridge of varying form can sometimes be seen on the back. The head is wedge shaped and the face is most expressive. The ears may be erect, half erect or drooping. The carriage of ears and tail is linked to the dog’s awareness of the environment. These variable physical features are of no direct influence on the physical and mental well-being of the dog. When in good condition, the ribs are just visible. The coat adapts to the seasons, and can be kept shiny with the minimum of care.
The Africanis Society of South Africa
Founded in 1998 by archaeologist Dr Udo Küsel (former Director of the National Cultural History Museum, South Africa) and Johan Gallant (dog behaviourist and writer), the Africanis Society was formed with the objective to protect and preserve the Africanis as the native landrace.
Dog experts Johan Gallant and Joseph Sithole roamed rural KwaZulu-Natal, studying and photographing the dogs they came across in kraals and homesteads. They concluded that these animals were not a mess of mongrels but members of coherent breed of dog, with a distinct behaviour and appearance.
Gallant came up with a name for the breed: “canis” (Latin for dog) and “Africa” – the Africanis. He later wrote up his and Sithole’s work in “The Story of the African Dog”, published by the University of KwaZulu-Natal Press in 2002.
Their exposure to harsh conditions and treatment over the centuries means they have evolved into a tough, hardy breed with a highly attuned survival instinct. They are highly intelligent, extremely active and agile.
The Africanis is bound to its human family and territory, making it a breed of esteemed loyalty. They will follow their owners on a walk for many hours without being on a lead and are obedient and willing to please. Their high levels of intelligence make the training process a rewarding and bonding one.
The Africanis is a robust, healthy dog with few medical issues. Having evolved in unforgiving environmental conditions, they have developed a natural resistance to parasites, both internal and external. They will, however, still require the appropriate vaccinations but costly vet bills should generally not be a concern.